‘The Great Gatsby: The Essential Graphic Novel Adaptation’ Writer Ted Adams: The Conskipper Interview

Even though F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is now over one hundred years old, the novel that defined “the Roaring Twenties” is still one of the most read books in high schools and colleges across the nation.

Fitzgerald’s tale of success, excess, and obsession that one can “…store up in (their) ghostly heart” still resonates with readers and is always ripe for a new adaptation or presentation.

If you are looking for a lush, accurate, and beautiful representation of The Great Gatsby, look no further than Ted Adams and Jorge Coelho’s Clover Press graphic novel adaptation (now available to back on Kickstarter).

We spoke at length with Adams who shared his thoughts on the novel and the challenges in taking on what many consider the greatest novel ever written in this exclusive interview.

Where did the idea to do a new Great Gatsby graphic novel adaptation initiate?

Ted Adams: I keep an eye on the books that are entering the public domain. When I saw The Great Gatsby on the list, I wanted to give it a shot but I only wanted to do it if I could find an artist who shared my passion for the book. I spent a few months going to the comic store to check out every artist I could and made the decision that Jorge Coelho would be the perfect choice. I got lucky — not only was Jorge interested in working with me, he also loves the novel.

As one of the greatest novels ever written, was it a daunting task to adapt it?

Adams: Yes it was. The Great Gatsby is on Time’s list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century and many people, myself included, consider it to be the “Great American Novel.” Our goal was to create a faithful graphic novel that would include every scene and many of Fitzgerald’s words. I think Jorge and I accomplished our goal but it’ll be up to others to let us know if we did.

You have said that Gatsby as a story “… has lost none of its ability to entertain”?  Why do you think this is?

Adams: When a book is defined as a classic that may make a potential reader think it’ll be boring or hard to read and The Great Gatsby is neither of those things. At the core of the novel is a love triangle that ends in tragedy for several of the characters. It’s a story that’s resonates today in the same way it did a hundred years ago. And Fitzgerald’s use of language is beautiful but it’s not hard to read.

What was it like working with Jorge Coelho on the project and what part of the adaptation where you most thrilled with in terms of his visuals?

Adams: Working with Jorge has been a dream come true. There’s not a single panel in the entire adaptation where he took the easy way out.

It starts with the very first page of the book where he draws a street scene and spends the time to show us every building in detail, right down to the bricks. In Chapter 4, there’s a flashback to World War I and Jorge puts us right into the trenches with the soldiers. The clothes throwing scene in Chapter 5 beautifully captures what Fitzgerald describes and is given an attention to detail that’s rare in comics. I could go on and on. The bottom line is Jorge’s work is extraordinary and it was a privilege to work with him.

You recently adapted the Island of Doctor Moreau. What did you learn about adapting literature for the comics medium on that project?

Adams: The comic book writing I’ve done has primarily been adaptations, starting with an adaptation of the Spawn movie (with Carlos D’Anda) for WildStorm in 1997. In addition to adapting the novels The Shrinking Man (with Mark Torres) and The Island of Doctor Moreau (with Gabriel Rodriguez), I’ve also adapted the video games Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat to comics. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at a skill and, while I haven’t reached that threshold as a writer, I’m way past it as a publisher. I’m hopeful the time I’ve spent adapting (and publishing) other mediums to comics has given me some of the tools I needed to adapt Gatsby.

What is your favorite quote/scene from Gatsby?

Adams: There are so many great scenes to choose from. I’m a bit of a misanthrope and the ending always gets to me. I don’t want to spoil the book for someone who hasn’t read it so I’ll keep it vague. Everyone was happy to be Gatsby’s friend when he was throwing big parties and helping them get jobs but they aren’t there for him at the end. I’ve had a bit of that in my own life and that may be why it resonates with me.

Along those same lines, my favorite quote is probably this one:

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

As part of the Kickstarter campaign, you have a few special campaign tiers for library and school donation. Why was this important to you?

Adams: I’m a lifelong reader who has spent his entire 35 year career in publishing. Now that I’m mostly retired, I read two to three books a week. I love books and I want other people to love them as much as I do. I give away books to everyone I know. I’m the Johnny Appleseed of books.

I was once the Chairman of a non-profit in San Diego, Traveling Stories, who help kids fall in love with reading. At Traveling Stories, I learned that children who can’t read proficiently by the 4th grade are up to 15 times more likely to drop out of school. I also believe a society that reads is more likely to have compassion for others. Getting students to read for fun is one of the most important things our schools and libraries can do.

Upcoming Clover Press projects?

Adams: Clover Press is putting the final touches on our edition of The Tragedie of Macbeth by Stewart Kenneth Moore (the amazingly talented artist behind our book Project: MK-Ultra). And two art book projects are on the way from the printer, The Art of Dracula of Transylvania by Ricardo Delgado and Popeye Variations: Not Yer Pappy’s Comics an’ Art Book. Those are both great books and I hope folks will check them out.

The Great Gatsby: The Essential Graphic Novel Adaptation will be available until April 11 on Kickstarter.

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